Reports: Deshaun Watson prefers Jets as trade destination, wants to play for Robert Saleh

The trade market for Deshaun Watson is starting to shape up, and it sounds like the Houston Texans quarterback prefers to land in the AFC East.

According to a report from Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald, Watson has told people his most preferred destination would be the New York Jets, followed by the Miami Dolphins.

The reported reason for Watson’s New York preference isn’t the large market or strong roster (rim shot), but their hire of former San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh as their new head coach. Watson’s reverence for Saleh is high enough that he reportedly requested the Texans interview him for their head coach position, which the team did not do. That’s in line from a previous report from ProFootballTalk’s Mike Florio.

Saleh is widely seen as a strong hire for the Jets after four years of running the Niners defense, which ranked fifth in the NFL in total defense this season despite an absurd number of injuries. He is also seen as a player’s coach and charismatic presence in the locker room, earning the endorsement of Richard Sherman and others on his way out.

The rift between Watson and the Texans goes back to how the Texans handled their head coaching and general manager search, so it wouldn’t be too surprising to see Watson valuing a coach enough to follow him to New York. The Texans probably wouldn’t hate the idea of a trade with the Jets either, considering what the team could give them.

Jets in good position to trade for Deshaun Watson

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 15:  Deshaun Watson #4 of the Houston Texans waits to take the field before the game against the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium on December 15, 2018 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)
The Deshaun Watson situation could go a number of ways. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)

Look, no team typically wants to trade a franchise quarterback like Deshaun Watson. The Texans clearly want to hold onto Watson, but sometimes a situation gets toxic enough that you have to move on. And if the Texans decide to move on, they could do worse than the package the Jets could likely put together.

Start with the No. 2 pick in the 2021 NFL draft. It won’t get you a Trevor Lawrence — not as long as the Jacksonville Jaguars do what is universally expected of them — but it will give you the choice between BYU’s Zach Wilson and Ohio State’s Justin Fields as your next franchise quarterback, and that’s what the Texans will most want if they’re giving up Watson. The Jets also own this year’s 23rd overall pick thanks to the Jamal Adams trade.

Watson to New York would also make Sam Darnold expendable, so his inclusion would give Houston a Week 1 starter if they want to give their next QB time to acclimate. And who knows, maybe Darnold becomes a franchise quarterback himself now that he’s escaped the gravity of Adam Gase.

It’s worth noting that the Dolphins can offer a basic package similar to the above with the No. 3 pick (thanks Bill O’Brien!), the No. 18 pick and Tua Tagovailoa, but what they don’t have is an extra first-round pick in next year’s draft. If the Jets are going for Watson, you’d think a package of Darnold and three (or more) first-round picks including this year’s second overall would be quite tempting.

If the Texans want even more than that, ESPN’s Rich Cimini reports that the Jets are “willing to listen” on a potential trade that would net them Matthew Stafford, who recently requested a trade, and the No. 7 pick for the No. 2 pick.

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